It was in four different TED talks where I heard this same message — quitting social media can result in an increased propensity for productivity and enhanced self-control. But I could never commit to the idea of giving it up until I heard Elon Musk say in a podcast, “Your phone is already an extension of you. You’re already a cyborg.” I decided to fast from social media for a week and I realized that it’s much scarier than it is profound.
It’s absolutely possible to log out of social media, regardless of how long you want to unplug. Unlike phone calls, Google Maps and other facets of technology essential to a true metropolitan life, social media is fundamentally a voluntary venture — it enables pleasure more than convenience. In fact, according to neuroscience and psychology research, social media can catch us in dopamine or compulsion loops. As Tony Schwartz stated in a New York Times op-ed, we’re craving “novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification.”
During my hiatus, there were instances where I’d habitually pick up my phone, only to be greeted by my new wallpaper that said “Conquer your inner b-tch” in an emphatic font. And there were times when I would feel socially disoriented, especially in elevators when I would stare at my gray surroundings unlike into the screen like everyone else.
I craved social media because it provided me with the convenience of absorbing news, connecting with friends and enjoying simple things like looking at memes. These are what I perceive as the quintessential elements of social media. While there are completely viable and equally accessible alternatives like news websites, phone calls and sports, social media enabled me to stay on the same page as my peers — if not in opinion, then at least in material.
In that way, I feared missing out. I was particularly preoccupied by the fear of losing my connection with my roommate. We come from completely different corners of the world, and I’ve found that we easily bond over social media trends. After starting my hiatus and being cut off, I battled this lingering thought of potential ostracization each day. It became apparent to me that my generation as a collective has homed in on social media as their medium of discourse. To delete it from my life then would be absolutely gullible: an online hara-kiri.
In all, my social media fast wasn’t as terrible as I assumed it would be, as I am someone severely stuck in that social media loop. And to give credit where it’s due, I did have this revelation offline. I’d even vouch for an offline experience, though as a vacation, and not a lifestyle. Yet the connection that social media makes possible cannot be underestimated especially in these times because of how it makes communication efficient and imparts a sense of individual responsibility. I’ll never quit social media because it would fundamentally strip me off my voice, not the one I use to speak but the one I use to connect.
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Email Krishang Nadgauda at [email protected]